Hiking Down & Up at the Grand Canyon

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Jul 29th, 2010, 12:41 PM
  #1
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Hiking Down & Up at the Grand Canyon

Would love to hear from anyone who has done this hike....tips/advice...especially from those
who are not considered "experienced trekkers". A family trip is planned for end of July,2011.
Ages are 18-68...everyone is trim & athletic....but what about stamina? How was the trail?
Any info will be appreciated. Thanks.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 01:09 PM
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Are you doing this in one day?
I would make sure to have good fitting,worn-in hiking boots.
I hiked down in the winter,it snowed.It could be very hot in July.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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I don't think the heat is an issue as you are in elevation. You will probably feel that.

There's nothing to stop you from resting along the way.

Make sure you drink lots of water, wear a hat and good hiking footwear and use suntan lotion.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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J62
 
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Heat is definitely an issue in July. The TOP of the GC is at elevation, the river is 5000' lower and can be 20 or more degrees hotter than at the rim. This is NOT a trek you can do in one day, especially in the summer. If you want to make it a 2 day trip you need to have reservations at Phantom Ranch by the river, and you need to get those 1yr in advance as they sell out.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 01:51 PM
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Our son just hiked down 1.5 hours a few days ago on the Bright Angel trail. Great photos and probably doable for anyone that does not have vertigo and can climb a couple floors of steps in a building without getting exhausted. Remember to pace yourself and it normally takes much longer to go back up than to go down.

He said it was worth it but got no where near the bottom. To get a good feel for the canyon at the bottom don't miss the film outside the park at the IMAX theater.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 02:06 PM
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Hiking down to the bottom and back up isn't something you should try for a "first hike". Even if you are doing this in two days, you will want to start hiking before the sun rises. Now if everyone is super conditioned, it might(i stress might) be ok. In other words, if you run 10 miles every day, probably would be all right. You can camp at the bottom, if you don't have reservations at Phantom Ranch. However, then everyone is going to be carrying 25-40lbs on their backs. Again, not something to attempt if you haven't backpacked before. The park rescues many people every year who get in serious trouble attempting to hike more than they are capable of. Heat exhaustion is a REAL issue. If you are not conditioned to heat(especially at the time you mention hiking it)don't attempt it. Just this past week I saw four park rangers carry an older gentleman down a trail. This was on a 2 mile hike, only 85 degrees, and still snow on the ground. Know what you can do before attempting it. A hike to the bottom and back is one of the more serious hikes anywhere. That said, many many people do it and love it. I would suggest for a first attempt, to try it in October or May.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 02:50 PM
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This was on the NPS site:

Q: How long will it take to get to the bottom from the South Rim?

A: The South Kaibab Trail is 6.8 miles to Bright Angel Campground and the Bright Angel Trail is 9.3 miles. It will take most hikers between 4 and 5 hours to get to the campground on either trail. Oddly enough, very few people ask how long the return hike will take. The return hike may take twice as long, though 7 to 8 hours seems to be average. Underestimating the elevation change and not eating or drinking enough can easily add a few hours to those averages.


Q: Can I go to the bottom and back in one day?

A: The National Park Service DOES NOT RECOMMEND hiking from the rim to the river and back in one day.


You can read more here:
http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/hiking-faq.htm
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Jul 29th, 2010, 03:45 PM
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We have reservations at Phantom Ranch for the night.....have to go in late July because of
school/schedules etc....thanks for the advice so far!
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Jul 29th, 2010, 03:49 PM
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This is a very serious undertaking in the summer. The temperatures at the bottom can exceed 110. It gets hotter as you go down, not cooler. (The South Rim is at 7900 ft elevation)

Being fit is just one part of it. Being well-prepared to deal with the distance, the altitude change/gain, the heat. There are fatalities every year, sadly.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 06:03 PM
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Nottingham,

Just curious. Where are you from and do you happen to work out in the heat or do any kind of serious activity in the heat?

You can also find all the water sources along the way on the NPS site. This might make a difference in which route you take. I would leave Phantom Ranch as soon as you eat breakfast. I think it is at like 5:00am or something like that.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 06:05 PM
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Having reservations at Phantom makes it less difficult but it's still not easy because you'll have to hike out in the heat.

I would set out down Kaibab no later than mid-morning, should take anywhere from 2 - 4 hours to hike down, hiking down is easy. Earlier is better for scenery and less heat but if you get there too early you'll have to wait hours for your dorm or cabin.

The tricky part is hiking back out, which you should do up Bright Angel since it has water and a Ranger Station, plus some shade (Kaibab is steeper and waterless). It's a couple of level miles beside the river, then about 7 miles of 'up' to the rim. A fast hiker can come out in 1.5x to 2x the time it took to hike down, a slow hiker typically takes 3-4x as long to hike out. Probably 4-8 hours is typical in the summer for the Phantom-to-rim hike up BA trail.

I've hiked almost 1,200 miles in the canyon and I'd suggest taking the lightest possible pack down. We used to hike rim-to-rim with just a small waist pack that would hold 2 quarts of water, a change of socks and underwear and a few Power Bars. Having a lot of weight on your back (or unnecessary weight anywhere) will wear you out.

I would also take something like moleskin for blisters so you can treat your feet that night at Phantom. Most likely you'll blister up with all the downhill walking and it will be less painful hiking out if you have the moleskin to cover them.

Expect high heat on the walk out, probably 105 F to 110 F at Phantom in the afternoon, sometimes hotter. So you want to get a very early start out. I used to like to start at 4 AM when doing rim-to-rim in the summer, for example. This may mean missing breakfast at the Ranch, but if some of your party struggled day one they will REALLY stuggle day 2 in the heat so start as early as you can to miss the worst of it.

Most people have sore legs and calves from hiking down, and get dehydrated from not drinking enough, so are in less-than-prime condition for the hike out.

Fill up your canteens before you leave and also drink heavily. Top off canteens again at Indian Gardens (4.7 miles from the rim), and both 3 mile and 1.5 mile rest houses.

Every year there are 250 - 350 hiker 'rescues' in the GC, most in the summer when people either run low on water or can't take the heat and get heat exhaustion and then heat stroke. Most years there are 1-3 hiker deaths in the summer. I remember one really hot dry year when seven hikers died and another 18 were brought out in critical condition. So don't underestimate the dangers ... being in shape and getting an early start before the heat is over powering is the key.

You wrote "everyone is trim & athletic" ... I'll bet that if Rangers rescued 300 people last year then 250 of them were also 'trim and athletic' ... the heat and exertion does funny things to people even when they are fit. Be careful, keep hydrated, get an early start and you should be OK.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 06:59 PM
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I've said it before, I'll say it now, and I'm sure I'll say it again: desert canyon hiking, particularly in summer, is different from any other type of hiking. Just because you can do one type of athletic activity does not, in ANY way, mean you can do this. I say this as someone who HAS hiked to the bottom and back out in two days, as well as up Mount Whitney, and over 200 miles on the Appalachian Trail. All of these are do-able *IF* you are willing to properly prepare and plan for each one.

One of the often-overlooked keys to hiking The Canyon is that your knees will be going down and up THOUSANDS of times. You *MUST* get these in shape, months ahead of time, by walking up and down steps for a MINIMUM of one hour without any discomfort. If you can't do that, forget about The Canyon.

When you finally get there, cover your skin with light cotton and sunscreen, as well as a hat. Carry AND DRINK lots of water. Start early, do NOT hike up while the Sun is out, and learn to walk slowly.

If you approach hiking in The Canyon with the respect it deserves, your hike will be one of the most enjoyable hikes of your life. If you don't, it will be one of the most miserable. The choice is yours -- it really is that simple.
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Jul 29th, 2010, 07:14 PM
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I hiked the Hermit Trail in august 1990 and I still remember the heat. It was almost unbearable. We camped at the bottom and walked back up the next day. I still remember being more sore after that than I have ever been. I have since ran several marathons etc.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 09:30 AM
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heat will be a factor. years ago i spent the night on the rim over Havasu Canyon and FROZE (in April or March), yet it was warm enough at the bottom to go swimming.

Some people can go down and up in the same day. A college friend did it - but he was a world class track and field athlete!
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Jul 30th, 2010, 05:40 PM
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spirobulldog.....
We all live in the hot-humid south.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 05:41 PM
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Are you from a climate that gets a lot of very high temps? If not, then you really have no idea how bad the heat can be. (Remember the British marathner who was expected to place at the Greece Olympics and had to drop out because of the heat?)

Also, the significant difference in altitude can affect a lot of people - especially if they any sort of lung problems - asthma, allergies - or have ever smoked.

A couple of friends of one of my step-daughters (college athletes in great shape) decided to try this for fun on the spur of the moment - and got about an hour down the trail - and ended up back at the top 5 hours later totally exhausted and dehydrated. What they did was foolish - but in the summer this does have a lot of dangers for anyone not used to very high temps.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 06:00 PM
  #17
J62
 
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Living in the hot and humid south, and spending 7-8hrs of very vigorous exercise in the full heat are two very different things.

I've found that hiking vertically, up or down, uses totally different muscles & puts different strain on my joints than I'm used to. For a hike like this several training hikes in the weeks leading up to your trip are really a great idea. Find a mountain with a 5000' elevation gain and hike from bottom to top is perfect. Of if the highest mountain is 1250' gain go up and down four times.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 06:02 PM
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Oh heck, GO FOR IT!! I think the key is drinking plenty and starting out early. I think everyone just wanted to warn you the best they could. Just read everyones advice, but especially Bill H. He has given me great advice on a few of my trips. I live in the humid south also, but I work outdoors all day, so I am used to it. Today was fairly brutal, 100 with heat index of 110. I operate trash trucks with no A/C. Now I don't know if that is any comparison to walking up a hill 5000ft. lol. Have a great trip. I haven't stayed at Phantom(yet). I look forward to hearing your trip report on your return. Have a fantastic trip!! I have a friend that did this last year, but he did it rim to rim in August and he made it just fine.
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Jul 30th, 2010, 07:55 PM
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Have you considered the mule trip?

http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/mule_trips.htm

The mules get the right of way on all trails, so you have to go to the rim side of the trail when they pass. Yikes.
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Jul 31st, 2010, 06:58 AM
  #20
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Appreciate ALL the Advice +Tips....it is a great help ...this is something one should not do on a whim...needs to be researched IMO.......Now tell me this..HOW WIDE are the trails...& HOW CLOSE do you get to the EDGE????????.....Help me with that question!
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